Like everyone else, our writers excitedly checked out the first Star Wars anthology film, Rogue One, over the weekend. Below, a handful of them share some thoughts on the film.
Putting The War In Star Wars
Andrew Husband: On the one hand, claiming Rogue One is the first Star Wars film to feature an actual “war” is somewhat disingenuous. All seven of the previous Star Wars films have included aspects of the galactic war forged between the Empire and the Rebellion in the original trilogy, or the conflicts that led to its occurrence in the prequel films — including the “Clone Wars.” On the other hand, none of the seven dug anywhere near as deep into the grittier aspects of wartime combat operations as Rogue One. Where George Lucas’ movies and J.J. Abrams’ continuation play more like space operas, Gareth Edwards’ standalone seems like it wants to venture into territory occupied by bona fide war pictures like Saving Private Ryan and Hacksaw Ridge. It never quite gets there, but the final act’s beach assault on Scarif comes closer than anything else before it in the Star Wars canon.
Dan Seitz: The wars in Star Wars are almost always pop culture references of some sort; it’s easy to forget Lucas, in addition to being a high-toned cineaste, loves the hell out of serials and other forgotten B-movies.. The X-wing battles owe a lot to the relatively obscure war movie The Dam Busters, among other “flying hero” movies, the prequels had these vast, formal elaborate sequences that were almost dance numbers with precise armies of droids unfurling, feeling like Cecil B. DeMille, and one critic hilariously pointed out there’s a bit in Attack of The Clones that’s more or less from The Navy Vs. The Night Monsters. Yes that’s a real movie.
There’s definitely some of that here; this movie romanticizes death much like WWII movies do. But I think it speaks to Edwards’ frame of reference and how the war movie has changed. I don’t think Lucas really could have made this movie in 1977.
Jill Pantozzi: When discussing the “politics” of Star Wars last week, I reminded everyone the franchise started with the intent of comparing it to real-world events. Lucas took cues from the first and second World Wars as well as Vietnam for his stories and I think that last one especially has a heavy influence on Rogue One when you look at their last assault on the beach. It’s gritty, it’s real, it’s pretty difficult to watch. We’ve seen “death” in Star Wars plenty of times but never like this.
Donna Dickens: I touch on this a little further down the line, but Rogue One is the first Star Wars movie that doesn’t let you forget people are dying for this cause. The original trilogy focuses so heavily on the Skywalker family that the cost of war is mere background noise while the prequels glossed over the atrocities of battle by having droids fight clones. The closest thing audiences have seen to this level of violence in a galaxy far, far away is the Jedi Purge and Anakin’s slaughter of the younglings. I agree with Andrew that Rogue One swings for fences with the reality of a rebel ground force fighting against the overpowered behemoth that is the Empire. Future generations of fans will see this film as “Baby’s First War Movie.” It’s gritty — and let’s face it, downright depressing at the end — but couches the violence in a veneer of bloodless palatability to keep it from crossing the line into “Baby’s First Traumatic Movie Experience.”